Here’s some more on that fairly shocking revelation that Bournemouth’s Hamed Traoré is recovering from malaria. Hope he’s OK.
An email from Emmanuel Otiotio regarding the Osimhen tweet.
“Nigerian here, not saying I fully know Victor’s intent but it reads to me like the typical reply we give our 271st “Merry Christmas/Happy New Year/Happy Birthday” message. Some emojis that seem connected with the initial message but are ultimately vague enough be interpreted in whatever way.”
I think even an extreme optimist would describe it as very clumsy and maybe a bit of a silly thing to do. You don’t have to be a pessimist to interpret it as a classic come-and-get-me-plea before the opening of the January transfer window.
The interesting thing about the new Osimhen contract is that it includes a release clause, which I’m fairly certain was not previously the case. So if Chelsea/another club want to pay it, he is free to leave. I think that’s the context for the tweet.
A nice stat, courtesy of Opta. Interesting to debunk a few perceptions. For example, the assertion that Tottenham are having a great season under Postecoglou, who are just three points better off than they were at this stage last season under Antonio Conte.
This is extremely odd.
On Saturday, Victor Osimhen signed a new Napoli contract. Italian media reported that his salary has been more than doubled to €10m (£8.7m) a season, with a release clause between €120m and €130m. Later that day, he was sent off against Roma.
Earlier today, Osimhen’s official account responded to a tweet that featured an image of the striker as a youngster in a Chelsea shirt with the caption of ‘Pls come and rescue Chelsea soon’. Osimhen’s replied with emoji’s of hearts and praying hands, suggested that he is praying for the move. He has not deleted the tweet, which you can see below.
I expect the Napoli fans, famously a calm bunch, will take that well. And what will the club make of that, after giving their talisman such a bumper payrise.
Spurs fans, does Hugo Lloris qualify as a Tottenham legend? I’m not talking about whether he will be asked back to do one of those charity events against an Arsenal XI in years to come. I’m talking about whether he belongs alongside some of the greats to pull on the Lilywhite shirt: in the ilk of Harry Kane, Jimmy Greaves, Dave MacKay, Glenn Hoddle, Gazza. My initial feeling is no. Eleven years of service, but no trophies (although having a World Cup medal is nice of course).
But when he was good, he was very, very good.
It’s Friday night: come for the Peter Løvenkrands costume. Stay for the straw in a tinny.
Transfer news: David Hytner reported on Hugo Lloris being close to leaving Spurs. Fabrizio has now confirmed there is a verbal agreement in place for the veteran Frenchman to leave for LAFC.
You can learn a bit more about the deal here.
Right, Michael’s shuffling back in to the chair now to talk you through the rest of the afternoon. Have a magnificent weekend and new year. Bye.
Transfer talk: Giovanni Simeone has said he wants to leave Napoli next month, Sky Sports News reports, with West Ham, Newcastle, Dortmund and Betis among potential suitors. The Argentina forward, son of Atlético manager Diego, has made 12 appearances this term, with Victor Osimhen very much still the main man up front for the Serie A champions. Simeone has two years remaining on his contract.
Emery admits frustration with Villa’s stumble: Here’s PA Media’s report on Unai Emery’s pre-match sitdown before their game against Burnley.
Unai Emery revealed Aston Villa’s frustration after their surprise Premier League title charge took a hit.Villa blew a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 at Manchester United on Boxing Day after needing a stoppage-time leveller to salvage a point against Sheffield United last week.
They missed the chance to go top after failing to beat the Blades and sit third, three points behind leaders Liverpool, ahead of Saturday’s visit of Burnley.
Emery said: “The players were frustrated after the last two matches we played.
“We are analysing and speaking in the meetings we are having about how we have to accept our way; we have to accept the way we are building; we have to accept and respect the opponent. We have to feel comfortable seeing the table now that we are finishing the first half of the season. This is a strong motivation for us.
“The frustration is not coming when something is not going like we want. At the end, the result is fair with every team. But to keep this position in the second half of the season is going to be very difficult.
“We have to be strong and we are feeling good. We are being demanding and trying to play with these demands. The only way is hard work. We are trying to improve and analyse greatly everything we are doing – sometimes being successful, more than less, thankfully. Sometimes, of course, we are not successful.
“… Even losing in Manchester, even drawing against Sheffield, we are being consistent in our way.”
Lucas Digne is a doubt with a hamstring injury, Youri Tielemans and Bertrand Traore are out while Boubacar Kamara remains banned. Emi Buendia and Tyrone Mings are long-term absentees with serious knee injuries.
Fulham v Arsenal on Sunday will be an interesting one, both sides having sparkled then wobbled in the past month. Marco Silva’s side followed consecutive 5-0 wins with three losses on the bounce but Raul Jiménez will return after he served a three-game suspension for his red card at Newcastle.
Silva said how the absence of Jiménez and the injured Willian absence affected recent performances. “He’s really important for us (Jiménez) no doubt and he was in a great moment before the red card, which in my opinion was harsh. He was in a very good moment and we were scoring goals, but we also we missed Willian too.
“In the Newcastle match, Willian did not play and in that game we played 80 minutes with 10 men. With both, we are stronger no doubt and we can not hide that situation so it is nice to have Jimenez back.” Willian is a doubt to face his former side at Craven Cottage with a hamstring problem. Tim Ream and Adama Traoré remain out also.
Silva stonewalled questions about interest in some of his high performers, notably João Palhinha, during the transfer window.
Vincent Kompany has been doing a Max Rushden and offering some calendar-year reflections: not surprisingly, the first half of it features more strongly for the Burnley manager, who takes his team to Aston Villa tomorrow.
“Sometimes I forget to reflect on this; it’s actually been a fantastic year,” he cooed. “Our 2023 was filled with all the types of memories and experiences you want to have in your life: lifting trophies, winning football matches and also sharing moments with the fans. Not so long ago there were 60,000 fans in Burnley on a parade. Where we found 60,000 people I don’t know, but they were there and that’s been part of our year. I still you’re always aiming for more in 2024 and to keep setting the bar higher is always the goal.”
Two in-form sides in the bottom half of the table, Wolves and Everton, meet tomorrow with Gary O’Neil’s side bracing themselves for being without Hwang Hee-Chan after tomorrow when the 10-goal forward zips off to the Asian Cup.
“We’ll look within the squad,” said O’Neil. “What we’ve got and what we are able to do. It was a similar situation when I arrived, Channy wasn’t the current answer for goals. He wasn’t really playing as a nine so the squad have done fantastically well to find a way so far and will continue to do so.
“When Channy leaves other people will step up, it’s an opportunity for people to get some minutes and we’ll find a way to make sure we keep being competitive and keep trying to push forward.”
Mario Lemina is a doubt to face Everton after flying to France for personal reasons but Craig Dawson is fit after a badly cut knee kept him out in midweek. (Quotes from PA Media)
More Old Firm now, this time from Rangers’ Philippe Clement, who agrees that the absence of away fans at the derby is a real loss – surely a rare point of unity between the two clubs’ supporters even if views on who’s to blame differ.
The Belgian, unbeaten in 16 games since arriving at Ibrox in October, is set for his first meeting with Celtic, but due to an ongoing dispute between the clubs over away tickets when they meet each other, there will be no Gers supporters at Celtic Park on Saturday.
“In our hearts they (the fans) will be there,” said Clement, who reported that the defender Connor Goldson has trained, with the possibility of some others from his lengthy injury list also being available. “It is a pity for football. It is always better to have two sides, it creates a certain atmosphere. It is a pity for football, but it is decisions made above my head, with knowing much more things than I know.
“I try to control the controllable, the things I can do, the things we need to do as a team, with my staff and players and the rest is not important. We are not focused on that, we are focused on the football.”
David Hytner, on why Spurs look knackered:
With squad numbers stretched, Postecoglou has had less scope to rotate from game to game and to make changes within them. The demands, though, remain the same, the pressure on the players increasing almost exponentially and, at some point, things will go bang. So, no excuses. But, well, maybe it depends on how you define them.
To Bournemouth, who visit Spurs on Sunday, and Andoni Iraola has confirmed that the midfielder Hamad Traoré will be a long-term absentee after spending time in hospital with malaria, PA Media reports. The 23-year-old was due to have been a part of the Ivory Coast squad for the Africa Cup of Nations to be hosted in the country. Instead he will now spend time recovering at home as well as undergoing further tests, and is unlikely to be available to the manager for the foreseeable future.
Iraolo suggested he would continue to field a settled side when his team face Tottenham, with Bournemouth on a run of six wins in their last seven Premier League games. Lewis Cook could return after missing the Boxing Day win at home to Fulham. The 26-year-old went off with an adductor injury during the 3-2 victory at Nottingham Forest a week ago but the problem did not turn out to be serious.
“We are not changing a lot of players at the moment because at the end there are just three or four days between matches,” said Iraola. “The only player we could recover maybe is Lewis Cook.”
Some gems from Roy Hodgson previewing Palace’s match against Brentford. “Answering about matches is a boring thing to do, so yeah they’re a good side Brentford but these are questions I don’t know how to answer, more and more I don’t know how to answer them,” he says to some laughter, all in the pressing room going through the motions. This will surely be the 76-year-old’s last job in the game.
Jack Grealish is expected to be available to play for Manchester City against Sheffield United in the aftermath of the burglary at his home in which £1m worth of jewellery: “Fortunately nothing wrong happened where the family was inside,” said Pep Guardiola. “It is what it is today in the modern day, with many things happening. It was a bad moment for him and his family but, fortunately, what was not damaged were the people inside.”
Rob Edwards has been talking before Luton’s match against Chelsea tomorrow, when he will have Jordan Clark back from illness but otherwise has the same squad as was available in the Boxing Day win at Sheffield United.
Tom Lockyer is in good spirits as he recuperates from collapse at Bournemouth, says the Luton manager. “I speak to him every day – he’s progressing, he seems bored at times but generally in good spirits; he was taking the mick out of my new Christmas trainers.” As for the team, “we were already performing well before we won two games, performances have been good before that “We’re like a family and one of the family obviously had a really tough time a couple of weeks ago and we’ve rallied round but Tom’s the main thing. We’ll concentrate on performance and try and do the right things – be brave, be aggressive and do all the things we do well.
Asked about Carlton Morrison and the racist abuse he received from a fan at Sheffield United, Edwards says it’s “really sad” that players have to put up with it and that there even needs to be protocols in place. I’ve never been in that situation myself so can’t have that empathy so I said to him I can’t imaigine how it feels – he got more abuse on social media too and texted me back to say ‘I know the protocols’ but I think that’s really sad that we have to put up with it, that it even has to be accepted as water off a duck’s back. He’s dealt with tireally well. And the officials handled it well.
As for Chelsea: “We’ll expect the best Chelsea and we’ll try to perform as well as we can, take the spaces where we think they’ll be and try and play our game at home. We go into it in good form, confident but also recognising the strength they have and expecting the best Chelsea. There’s been a lot of change there, I’ve got a lot of respect for Mauricio Pochettino as one of the best managers in the world and they have lots of young players but not for me to comment.”
Our resident transfers guru has the latest on the highly valued Ukrainian midfielder Georgiy Sudakov of Shakhtar Donetsk.
Thanks Michael, and hello again, football-crazed youngsters! Zipping up to Glasgow now, and both Old Firm managers have been doing their Friday pressers. Celtic’s Brendan Rodgers confirms that Cameron Carter-Vickers will miss Saturday’s derby against Rangers after sustaining hamstring-knack at Dundee. Rodgers said: “He will not be available for the next two games. It’s not longer term, but you probably won’t see him until after the winter break.”
Liel Abada and Reo Hatate look set to be included on the bench. Abada last featured against Rangers on 3 September before suffering a thigh injury while training with Israel. Hatate has been out for two months with a hamstring problem. Rodgers said: “We don’t want to rush them, but if they come through today then they will be involved in the squad tomorrow.”
Rodgers is under a bit of pressure, with Rangers breathing closer down Celtic’s necks than at any time since the Gers’ title win in the 2-20-21 behind-closed-doors season. Talking of fans not being let in, Old Firm derbies continue to be disfigured by the tit-for-tat non-admission of away fans. And there’ll be no one from the Blue section of the city in the stands tomorrow.
Gonna hand the blog back to Tom Davies for a bit and grab some lunch. Cheers!
We spoke about Eddie Howe earlier. Louise Taylor has reported the heck out of his latest musings, right here.
Eddie Howe will resist the temptation to abandon the high energy, high pressing, playing philosophy which swept Newcastle to fourth place last season but currently seems to have left an injury-hit squad exhausted.
As he prepared for Monday’s night’s match at Liverpool, Howe rebutted suggestions he had no Plan B.
“We have many variations of how we play, there are loads of Plan Bs,” said Newcastle’s manager, whose team have lost six of their last seven games in all competitions and lost ground in the Premier League’s race for European qualification. “But they’re all based around Plan A so we’re not going to throw anything away.
“If you look at the statistics we base our performances on, they’re still very strong on lots of the key markers. We’ve got to be very careful not to go too far away from what we do. We have to play to our strengths, we have to be a threat.”
Here’s more on that Ancelotti news.
Fair play to David Moyes and West Ham, they are up to sixth. A good achievement, considering they have just won their Europa League group (and steered West Ham to their first trophy in 43 years when he won the Europa Conference League last season).
West Ham’s squad is pretty average; I reckon the only standout players are maybe Zouma, Ward-Prowse, Paqueta, Kudus and maybe Bowen? Perhaps no surprise that Moyes is in line for a new contract. Jacob Steinberg has more on that story.
West Ham are set to end the doubts over David Moyes’s future by rewarding the manager with a new two-and-a-half year deal.
Moyes’s current contract expires at the end of the season and there has previously been little indication that the club would look to extend his stay. However recent performances have altered the mood at the London Stadium, with West Ham rising to sixth place after securing consecutive 2-0 victories over Arsenal and Manchester United.
More Manchester United news, but slightly more football related. Erik ten Hag has just been speaking and is feeling positive about the Ineos/Ratcliffe deal, which was confirmed on Christmas Eve.
I think it’s a good thing, it’s very positive. We are really looking forward to working together. Ineos wants to work with me, in this structure and I want to work with them. The schedule is so condensed so I didn’t have the time so far to speak with them but it will come.
Not breaking news, but on the subject of Jay Rayner/food, this came out last week. Not even my local kebab shop has a one star hygiene rating.
Manchester United have been told “major improvements” are needed to ensure food sold at Old Trafford is safe to eat.
The Premier League side have been given a one star out of five food hygiene rating after a Food Standards Agency inspection last month.
The Red Devils admitted “a small amount of undercooked meat was inadvertently served during a non matchday event”.
“This was an isolated issue and the immediate failures were quickly addressed,” the club said.
United said they are also conducting an independent food audit to identify any further areas of improvement.
“MUFC has taken this incident very seriously and wants to reassure our valued fans and customers that we maintain the highest culinary standards,” the club added.
“The club is proud of the high standards and the five-star food hygiene record which had been awarded to us for the past eight years.
“Everyone at the club is determined to regain our five-star food hygiene status as quickly as possible.”
I can low-key imagine Jay as a supersub striker. Throw him on for the last few minutes. Right place/right time sort of guy, sniffs out the chances.
Football Weekly Extra has landed. Wrap your head/ears around it here.
One manager that isn’t going anywhere for a while is Carlo ‘The Eyebrow’ Ancelotti. Real Madrid have just announced a contract extension with the Italian until 2026. Ancelotti has previously been linked with the Brazil job but seems a little silly when the 64-year-old is still bossing it at the world’s biggest club. Here’s a Real statement for you.
Real Madrid C. F. and Carlo Ancelotti have agreed to extend our coach’s contract until June 30, 2026,” read a statement.
“In his five seasons as Real Madrid coach, he has won 10 titles: Two Champions Leagues, two Club World Cups, two European Super Cups, one La Liga, two Copa del Reys and one Spanish Super Cup.
“Carlo Ancelotti is the only coach to have won four European Cups and the one to have achieved the most victories in the history of this competition (118).
“He is also the first coach to win all five major European Leagues (Italy, England, France, Germany and Spain).
The next four matches for Hodgson include three home games against Brentford, Everton and Sheffield United. I think he should be judged after at least some of those games, not a narrow defeat to Chelsea.
The tempting thing for Palace is to snatch one of the available managers while they still can. As Ed mentions, Lopetegui, Cooper and Glasner are all available for free, but there is no guarantee that they would do a better job than Hodgson.
In a world of restricted transfer windows and FFP laws, hiring and firing managers is still a relatively inexpensive thing to do, even if you poach a manager from another team with a compensation fee.
It’s an obvious point but a manager can completely transform a team, whether it is a struggling team looking for a new manager bounce (see Dyche last season at Everton or Wilder this season at Sheffield United) or a more successful side looking to change the tactical approach.
For example, Roberto De Zerbi’s release clause at Brighton is reportedly around £10m. That is pittance when you start to think of how much clubs are prepared to gamble on a single player like Rasmus Højlund, Mykhailo Mudryk or Kai Havertz.
Ed Aarons has written on the managerial merry-go-round, with Roy Hodgson tipped to be the next man to lose his job in the Premier League.
Yet with Hodgson the bookmakers’ favourite to be the next Premier League manager to lose his job and pressure mounting behind the scenes, it is doubtful he will get the chance to find out if Palace were to lose at home to Brentford on Saturday. It is understood that the chairman, Steve Parish, has been sounding out potential replacements including the former Wolves manager Julen Lopetegui, and the sudden availability of Steve Cooper after his sacking by Nottingham Forest has increased the scrutiny on the oldest manager in Premier League history. Cooper is believed to have spoken to Parish in the summer about potentially taking over before Palace opted to hand Hodgson a year’s contract and could be tempted to make a swift return to management if called upon.
The Lille manager, Paulo Fonseca, and Oliver Glasner, who has been out of work since leaving Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer, have their supporters in a Palace boardroom where divides remain between Parish and three other major shareholders. Paddy McCarthy, who was promoted to assistant manager when Hodgson returned, has also been earmarked as the long-term replacement by Parish but it would take a brave call to throw him in at the deep end.
I’m not Hodgson’s biggest supporter, but I do have a certain amount of sympathy for him in this particular scenario. I have liveblogged Palace’s last two matches – a 1-1 draw at home to rivals Brighton and a narrow 2-1 defeat at Chelsea – and there have been signs of life for the south Londoners in both games, even if the second half against Brighton was a bit dire.
In terms of sacking Hodgson, you can cut the stats how you like to support either argument. One obvious point to make it that Palace haven’t won in eight matches and have steadily slid towards the relegation zone. They are now just three points clear of 18th-placed Luton, who have a game in hand over Palace.
But, in that run of eight games, only one has been a defeat by more than one goal (a 2-0 loss to in-form Bournemouth), there have been key injuries to their star players, Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze, and there have been unlucky 2-1 defeats to Liverpool and away at Chelsea, plus encouraging draws at West Ham and Manchester City. Obviously the departure of Wilfried Zaha in the summer was a hammerblow. The Ivorian has not been replaced in a meaningful way.
I’m not sure Hodgson is doing a bad job in the circumstances. Moreover, he is slightly losing the PR battle. These comments (after the Bournemouth defeat) did not help. Not exactly aspirational quotes to encourage a fanbase.
The fact is that the expectations are high, hence the boos. But the fact is the fans have been spoiled here in recent times, they’re used to seeing us do very well at home and get good results and this year we’ve not been able to do that. I hope they have enough empathy to stick with us when times are tough.
One big game on Saturday is the Old Firm derby between Celtic and Rangers. In the Scottish Premiership, we have something approaching a title race, with Rangers revitalised since the appointment of Philippe Clement. They are five points adrift of Celtic but have two games in hand. A win at their rivals would be a huge result.
One transfer dealing you may have missed is Fabio Silva, the Wolves striker, who confirmed his loan to Rangers on Thursday. The 21-year-old cost Wolves £35m three years ago, but simply hasn’t justified that price tag. He’s scored one goal in 10 appearances this season for Wolves, in a 5-0 win over Blackpool in the League Cup. Perhaps a stint in Scotland will boost his confidence.
Here’s some more on Liverpool, with Klopp talking about losing Mo Salah and Wataru Endo to Afcon and the Asian Cup.
Klopp actually strikes quite a sensible tone here, but always have felt slightly irked in the past when managers (including Klopp), particularly managers near the top of the table with resources and a substitute bench full of international footballers, start moaning about injuries/suspensions/international commitments.
Injuries are expected, suspensions are completely the fault of their own players and every club knows about the international commitments of any African or Asian player when they sign them. It’s not a bolt from the blue.
The Guardian Footballer of the Year is an award given to a player who has done something remarkable, whether by overcoming adversity, helping others or setting a sporting example by acting with exceptional honesty. In the moment of her greatest triumph, Spain’s World Cup winner became the focal point of football’s battle against misogyny. Suzanne Wrack has more.
Howe has also spoken about Joelinton, whose rise is emblematic of the job the English manager has done on Tyneside.
The Brazilian has come a long way since being an out-of-sorts £40m striker under Steve Bruce – the 27-year-old was outstanding in the Champions League this season. If Newcastle fail to qualify for the top four this year, I’m sure there will be many big clubs sniffing around in the summer.
That said, Joelinton seems very settled in the north-east, and there is no suggestion that he would want to leave. I enjoyed this (exclusive) interview with him earlier this year.
Hello everyone! Every day sort of feels like a Friday at the moment, but delighted that we’ve got the real thing today. Now, back to the footy.
Can’t believe I’m really writing this, but some people feel that Eddie Howe is a man under pressure at Newcastle. Yes, they are on a particularly bad run of form, but this is partly because Howe has been so damn successful, raising expectations to unfathomable levels, qualifying for the Champions League, things like that.
Newcastle are obviously a complicated club to take a shine to, once you take the origins of their new-found wealth into considerations, but you can’t fault the coaching job Howe has done, even if he is evasive on the moral questions around the club. Howe has spoken today before Newcastle’s tricky trip to Liverpool on New Year’s Day.
“I don’t look at it like I’m in the spotlight now. I’m always in the spotlight and criticism is part of this job. It goes hand in hand with it. You say I haven’t been criticised, but it just goes with the territory. I’ve learned to accept and understand that and – no disrespect – but to blank it out and make sure I help the players. That hasn’t changed for me.”
Howe has also been asked if he will be able to spend in January in a bid to refresh and replenish his depleted squad. Asked if he had been given assurances over further transfer window funds, he said:
“No, we haven’t had those assurances. I think it’s a difficult month, as we always say when January comes around. I apologise if I sound like I’m saying the same things, but it is a very difficult month to bring in quality players. Financial Fair Play continues to play a part in our decision-making, so let’s wait and see.”
And with that I’ll hand you over to Michael Butler. Laters.
The Sheffield United manager, Chris Wilder, has hinted now is not the right time to take goalkeeper Wes Foderingham out of the firing line,” reports PA Media. Foderingham has come under the spotlight after several errors this season, most recently in the Boxing Day defeat to Luton.
But Wilder said he needed all his best players on the pitch for Saturday’s trip to Manchester City. “There can’t be knee-jerk reactions, but players have got to play well to get in the team and stay in the team,” Wilder said. “He’ll feel it and understand it and he has to get over it, as everybody has,” Wilder said.
“Everybody’s been in that period as a player. I’ve had to suffer and everyone has to suffer. We can’t shy away from it and he’ll be the first to admit, there were certain situations that maybe we could have handled a little bit better. This is the life and times of a goalkeeper. This is not a ‘let’s leave all our best players on the bench moment’.
“There might be times in cup competitions when you rest players, when they’ve got injuries and knocks and you want to see other players. But not when you go to Man City. I’m not leaving my best players out. I’m a little bit nuts at times, but I’m not that insane.”
The Blades, seven points from safety at the foot of the table, will be without City loanee James McAtee against his parent club, while Gus Hamer and Anel Ahmedhodzic will both serve one-game bans. John Egan (Achilles), Chris Basham (lower leg) and Tom Davies (thigh) remain long-term absentees.
How good were Brighton last night? And João Pedro in particular. Roberto De Zerbi certainly wasn’t holding back after his side’s 4-2 win over Spurs, though he fears it will be hard to keep him at the club, reports PA Media.
“He is the best player on the pitch, I think,” De Zerbi said. “He played another incredible game. I am really pleased for his improvement on mentality, on attitude. In defensive phase, incredible because he defended 90 minutes like a centre-back in terms of mentality.
“He is becoming, I think, a top player. I hope in the next year to work with him but I think it will be very tough.”
De Zerbi also has a couple of injury concerns. The left-back Igor Julio was forced off with a tendon problem, Facundo Buonanotte also had to be replaced with an injury concern and De Zerbi admitted they are initial doubts for the trip to West Ham next week.
De Zerbi also fielded questions on Japan winger Kaoru Mitoma, who has been ruled out for four to six weeks with an ankle injury which has placed in doubt his participation in next month’s Asian Cup. “I hope it can be less than four (weeks), but the medical staff say four, five or six weeks and I am working for Brighton, not for Japan. I can say nothing for Japan,” the Italian said. “I hope for you that Kaoru can play in Asian Cup but I don’t know.”
Calendar year awards are pointless when it comes to northern hemisphere football seasons but Max Rushden has had some fun picking through his moments of 2023. What are yours?
Around £1m worth of jewellery was stolen from Jack Grealish’s Cheshire home while he was playing for Manchester City at Everton on Wednesday. According to the Sun, members of his family were watching the match on TV at home when they heard a disturbance in the house. The burglars were not found but large amounts of jewellery had been taken. The newspaper said a subsequent police search was unable to find any trace of the suspects.
€uropean $uper £eague latest: Here’s an interesting one, from our ever-roving Fabrizio Romano: the Italian football federation has agreed to block access to the ESL for any Italian clubs; any that do sign up will be barred from Serie A in 2024-25. That season consisting entirely of 38 consecutive Real Madrid-Barcelona fixtures remains on the table.
More from Liverpool, whose left-back Andy Robertson’s recovery from a shoulder injury looks like sidelining him for the remainder of January, reports PA Media. The Scotland captain has been out since surgery in October after sustaining a dislocation on international duty.
It had been expected the 29-year-old would be close to a return in the new year, but Jürgen Klopp said the defender needs further rehabilitation time. “Robbo still needs more range in his shoulder. Obviously it was a big surgery. (He is) still not even close to team training or whatever,” he said.
“(He) can do a lot, everything without using the arm properly, which is obviously good, but on the other side shows us we still have a long way to go. For sure, I think, the full January he has to get closer and closer.”
Mikel Arteta was notably more circumspect over last night’s VAR kerfuffle – surrounding the allowing of West Ham’s first goal when the ball appeared to have crossed the byline in the buildup – than he was after a similar incident cost Arsenal at Newcastle. Here’s what he had to say about the game against West Ham in general:
Never mind all the focus on Arsenal’s slip-up last night, West Ham got everything right, and here’s some reaction from their striker Jarrod Bowen, courtesy of PA Media.
“It’s a massive win. We knew it was going to be difficult as these are a top side, but we managed to build on what we did against Manchester United,” Bowen told the club’s website. “I think, for us, we haven’t been consistent enough. We might have won one game and then the Fulham game springs to mind when we conceded five, and if we want to be spoken about to go to the top six and finishing higher in the division then we need to be consistent.
“I said after the Man United game that we needed to come here with a mindset to take points and we’ve done that. It’s those consistency levels … we play Brighton in a few days (Tuesday) and we have to go there and win that as well.”
Arsenal, on the other hand, could only reflect on chances not taken. “I think we created more than enough to score goals to win the game,” said their captain, Martin Ødegaard. “It was the little details and the little last pass or the finish that was missing. We have to learn from it and make sure we get sharper and better in front of the goals. The goals we conceded were too easy, so definitely in front of the goals, inside the boxes, that’s where the games are decided. We weren’t good enough.”
And now to Newcastle’s next opponents, Liverpool, the leaders. Jürgen Klopp has been riffing on why Liverpool’s defence has improved so much this season. “It’s just general defending, that’s how it is. Everyone buys into the way we have to work, not that the team didn’t do that last year but you lose too many balls in areas you don’t want to and you suffer – last year that was more of a problem. Recently we have stepped up counterpressing wise so that means everyone works better: midfield, front three, and the high line keeps opponents from having so many chances. It’’s just the effort everyone puts in.”
Newcastle, Klopp says, have been unlucky with injuries. “They’re not used to international (European) football, all the games they’ve lost they’ve had really good spells, they have a really good idea of how they want to play, but Eddie had to play too often the same lineup with all these games for a long, long time. But now they have five or six days between games and that helps, using that extra recovery time. We have a busy January and we all have to get through that.”
Diogo Jota’s return “is super important. … it’s so important these boys can rotate between them with all these games, if Macca (Alexis Mac Allister) can be back that would be outstanding too. Jota’s football brain is very smart, he understands the game particularly well, some players really understand the game on a different level and he’s one of them. He knows how to adapt to what your opponent is doing and he’s a great finisher. He scores (like at Burnley) but he misses chancse as well but it’s also about creating, and then they all can score. We need these boys.
In the last few games even when the results haven’t been good, we’ve found a good rhythm, not in a rush, and played the way we wanted, and that’s helpful. It gives you a good feeling, and momentum.”
Klopp then bristles a tad at being asked whether VAR should be looked at by the game’s authorities. “I really don’t think I should answer this, the things we discuss (on this) are not interesting any more. It just becomes ‘Klopp said,’ and it’s not helpful any more, We can talk about it on and on and on and the authorities have to be brave.” But as for binning it entirely: “Oh my God take me away – use it better, the right way.”
Eddie Howe has admitted he hasn’t had guarantees he’ll be able to splash the cash next month. Asked about transfers ahead of Newcastle’s visit to Liverpool on Monday, the managers said: “We haven’t had those assurances. It’s a difficult month when January comes around, financial fair play continues to play a part in decision-making so let’s wait and see.” Howe said he remained in frequent dialogue with Newcastle’s Saudi owners. “I always communicate with them win, lose or draw.”
Howe also praised Newcastle’s fans for sticking with them in this current lean patch. “Supporters have been second to none, we didn’t perform as we wanted to (in the Boxing Day defeat by Nottingham Forest) but supporters stayed with us.
“It’s been a difficult period, December was always going to be really tough – we’ve gone out of two competitions we were determined to do well in and our performances haven’t been where they want to be. We have to be strong, stand up and be counted and respond. January is a great opportunity for us to fight back and show our qualities.
The Newcastle manager said the return of Joelinton is a boost: “Whenever you lose a player of Joe’s quality it’s felt and it’s felt harder when other players are out, he showed that when he came on (against Forest) – his ability in the duels in the middle of the pitch is vital.”
Morning everyone. It feels kind of strange to be previewing another round of fixtures when the previous one finished only late last night, but here we are: no one ever quite knows what day it is at this time of year and I for one plan a nice brisk Sunday stroll when the working day is done to clear away the cobwebs.
And so the top flight goes again tomorrow, starting at lunchtime with in-form Luton squaring up to Mauricio Pochettino’s wildly unpredictable Chelsea, before afternoon fixtures that include ostensible home bankers for Manchester City against Sheffield United and Aston Villa against Burnley, and who knows what for Manchester United at Nottingham Forest. We’ve got media conferences coming up today from Erik ten Hag, Pep Guardiola and Eddie Howe, among others.
One suspects Pep in particular will be in perky mood after Arsenal’s defeat by West Ham last night exposed failings in their title credentials, while Spurs will be licking their wounds after a 4-2 going-over by a Brighton side back to their ebullient best in the league. And of course with three days to go until the slammed-shut transfer window is prised back open again, there’s all sorts of conjecture to feed off.
There are also four Serie A fixtures this evening, with the leaders Internazionale visiting Genoa and the inconsistent champions, Napoli, have a tricky assignment against Monza. What’s more, there’s a full EFL programme too, with Championship leaders Leicester visiting Cardiff, who’ve improved since Erol Bulut took over, second-placed Ipswich hosting QPR and a tasty looking showdown between West Brom and Leeds. I also like the look of Oxford v Derby in League One and Bradford at home to the League Two leaders, Stockport.
Here’s some reading from last night to start you off: